Sunday, July 28, 2013

Never Trust Anyone Who Hasn't Looked in a Mirror

          The other day I came across an article that must be seen to be believed. It’s called “Never Trust Anyone Who Hasn't Been Punched in the Face,” written by a man named Scott Locklin. It's been receiving a great deal of attention and praise. I clicked on the article because the title intrigued me. What followed was a tangent so riddled with misogyny, gender stereotypes, racism, homophobia, and outrageous misinformation that my husband theorized that it may actually be from another world, transported to ours via the Tardis.
          I briefly wondered if it was satire, but as I continued to read, I realized the truth. Locklin wholeheartedly believes his own bunk. He’s expressed the same views in other articles he’s written, most of which are featured on Takimag.com. (Taki’s Magazine is a publication which pretentiously describes itself as “mental caviar.” The “About Us” page claims that they’re politically and ideologically neutral, but they mainly publish material that is sexist, racist, or homophobic in nature. Only two of their columnists are women, both of whom are virulently anti-feminist. Another regular columnist is Pat Buchanan, who wrote a piece bemoaning the “anti-Christian” assault on Christmas. Despite the fact that 77 percent of American adults identify as Christian, America is clearly an anti-Christian country and Christmas is in grave danger of going the way of the dinosaurs and Paris Hilton’s career.)
         I couldn’t resist adding my own input. Locklin’s article follows below, and my own commentary is the bold print after each of his paragraphs.

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“Conservatives like to talk about the causes of Western Civilization’s downfall: feminism, loose morality, drug abuse, Christianity’s decline, reality TV. Blaming civilization’s downfall on lardy hagfish such as Andrea Dworkin is like a doctor diagnosing senility by an old person’s wrinkles. The fact that anyone listened to such a numskull is a symptom, not the cause, of a culture in decline.”

        At first I was perplexed as to why he’d mention Andrea Dworkin at all, let alone mark her as the first target of his diatribe. She’s hardly relevant to this topic or to modern public discourse. Later on in his screed, I realized why. You’ll see.

“The cause of civilizational decline is dirt-simple: lack of contact with objective reality. The great banker-journalist (and founder of the original National Review) Walter Bagehot said it well almost 150 years ago: ‘History is strewn with the wrecks of nations which have gained a little progressiveness at the cost of a great deal of hard manliness, and have thus prepared themselves for destruction as soon as the movements of the world gave a chance for it.’”

      "Hard manliness." I see what he did there.

“Every great civilization reaches a point of prosperity where it is possible to live your entire life as a pacifist without any serious consequences. Many civilizations have come to the state of devolution represented by modern Berkeley folkways, from wife-swapping to vegetarianism. These ideas don’t come from a hardscrabble existence in contact with nature’s elemental forces; they are the inevitable consequence of being an effete urban twit removed from meaningful contact with reality.”

           …And this article was penned by a Berkley-dwelling number cruncher who self-admittedly has “limited experience with violence.” Also, referring to wife-swapping as an act of “devolution” contradicts his own argument, since that practice would almost certainly lend itself to a population increase. He makes it sound like a mainstream lifestyle within our society, rather than something marginal. Now who’s the one “removed from meaningful contact with reality”?
         A side note: Why the bitterness about vegetarians? This resentment is pervasive in his other articles as well. Did this guy have a traumatic experience with a soy burger or something? And how presumptuous—and inaccurate—to assume that vegetarians don’t get into fights. There are wrestlers, MMA fighters, and other athletes who eat vegetarian and vegan diets. You don’t need to eat meat to kick ass.
        I may be overanalyzing a bit, but it seems that Locklin equates "meat eater" with "tough guy" because to him, meat isn't just a part of one's diet. He appears to think that eating an animal is an act of conquer. It's one of many examples of his overcompensation. (Not that every non-vegetarian eats meat because they want to "conquer" an animal, but those who regard vegetarians as weak and wimpy seem to hold that attitude. It's a form of posturing that's near-painful to listen to.)

“The over-civilized will try to portray their decadence as something “highly evolved” and worthy of emulation because it can only exist in the hothouse of highly civilized urban centers, much like influenza epidemics.”

         Actually, non-urban people can certainly be vegetarians or wife-swappers. And influenza epidemics are hardly limited to “highly civilized urban centers.”
        Yes, it is flawed reasoning to deduce that a behavior which can only exist in a highly advanced society must, in itself, be an evolved and highly productive behavior. But as we've established, vegetarianism and non-traditional marriages don't fall into this catagory. Another fact to consider is that a society resting on fistfights, gang violence, and abuse is not highly evolved, and certainly not one to strive toward. Technology doesn't separate us from that way of life, either. On the contrary, technology often enables us to develop more far-reaching forms of warfare.

“Somehow these twittering blockheads missed out on what the word “evolution” means. Evolution involves brutal and often violent natural selection, and these people have not been exposed to brutal evolutionary forces any more than a typical urban poodle.”

        In other words, people never face violence in cities?

“Through human history, vigorous civilizations had various ways of dealing with the unfortunate human tendency toward being a weak ninny. The South Koreans (for my money, the hardest men in Asia today) have brutally tough military training as a rite of passage. I’ve been told that the Soviet system had students picking potatoes during national holidays. The ancient Greeks used competitive sports and constant warfare. The Anglo-American working classes, the last large virtuous group of people left in these countries, use bullying, violent sports, fisticuffs, and hard living.”

           There is so much wrong with this paragraph that I barely know where to begin. You’re either a violent bully or a “weak ninny”? Wow, someone’s dichotomous thinking is showing. He uses the ancient Greeks as an example of a group that thrived because they were stoic and aggressive. They were tough, but also every bit as “decadent” as the contemporary urban masses he sneers at. Not only that; he’s trying to condone brutality by using ancient Greece and the Soviet Union as examples to emulate, though both of those governments fell. (Whether their downfalls were due to warfare or in spite of it is beside the point.) In regard to the Soviet Union, he criticizes their form of government later on in his essay. This article has the consistency of a bowl of Jell-O.
           He lauds bullying as some sort of strength of character, when by its very definition, it is anything but. Bullying is the act of targeting someone vulnerable; someone who won’t pose a challenge to oneself. In that sense, a bully is a coward.
          Also, the Anglo-Americans are “the last virtuous group of people left in these countries”? Mad props on the xenophobia and white supremacist overtones, bro.

“I think there is a certain worldview that comes from violent experience. It’s something like…manhood. You don’t have to be the world’s greatest badass to be a man, but you have to be willing to throw down when the time is right.”

         Or, in the author’s case, you have to imagine you would hypothetically be willing to beat up those nefarious wife-swapping vegetarians if one of them kidnaps you in his Prius, force-feeds you his homegrown soy products, and tries to rope you into his polyamorous marriage. In reality, any one of those folks could probably kick him to the curb with their faux-leather Birkenstocks.

“A man who has been in a fight or played violent sports has experienced more of life and manhood than a man who hasn’t. Fisticuffs, wrestling matches, knife fights, violent sport, duels with baseball bats, facing down guns, or getting crushed in the football field—men who have had these experiences are different from men who have not. Men who have trained for or experienced such encounters know about bravery and mental fortitude from firsthand experience. Men who have been tested physically know that inequality is a physical fact. Men who know how to deal out violence know that radical feminism’s tenets—that women and men are equal—are a lie. We know that women are not the same as men: not physically, mentally, or in terms of moral character.”

           Welcome in, sexism! I was wondering when you’d arrive. For those of us less fluent in Misogynese, his dig at women roughly translates to: “I’ve been blocked too many times on OKCupid.” BTW, way to knock feminism without the slightest inkling about what it is. By asserting that men and women are equal, feminists do not claim that both genders are “the same.” As far as that’s concerned, men are vastly different from other men and women vary greatly from other women.
          From the get-go of this essay, he’d set the bar pretty high in terms of gender clich├ęs, and this paragraph does not disappoint. The statement that “a man who has been in a fight or played violent sports has experienced more of life and manhood than a man who hasn’t” is meaningless. You could say that a man who’s attended college or traveled to foreign countries is different than a man who has not. That generalization could apply to anything.

“Men who have fought know how difficult it is to stand against the crowd and that civilization is fragile and important. A man who has experienced violence knows that, at its core, civilization is an agreement between men to behave well. That agreement can be broken at any moment; it’s part of manhood to be ready when it is. Men who have been in fights know about something that is rarely spoken of without snickering these days: honor. Men who have been in fights know that, on some level, words are just words: At some point, words must be backed up by deeds.”

           “Civilization is an agreement between men to behave well.” He completely excludes women from his definition of civilization, even though we make up over half the population and we certainly fight, too. As far as words being backed up by deeds, who’s to say that those deeds always have to be violent in nature? There are numerous ways to change society, stand up for oneself, and gain power without employing violence. Civil disobedience, boycotts, changing laws, suing one’s oppressors, and gaining media attention are just a few of those methods. History has shown time and again that there are myriad factors which contribute to people gaining power. You don’t need to be a bloodthirsty brute. People climb to positions of influence by way of intelligence, talent, useful information, money, manipulation, social connections, and more. Not all of those are positive or honest means of ascent, but they’re not necessarily violent.

“Above all, men who have been in fights know that there is nothing good or noble about being a victim. This is a concept the modern “conservative movement,” mostly run by wimps, has lost, probably irrevocably. They’re forever tugging at my heartstrings, from No Child Left Behind to Israel’s plight to MLK's wonders to whining that the media doesn’t play fair to the overwrought emotional appeals they use to justify dropping bombs on Muslims. The Republicans even took seriously a pure victim-candidate: Michelle Bachman. As far as can be told, she’s a middle-American Barack Obama with boobs and a slightly loopier world view.”

            Ah, yes. You can’t write a racist, sexist, xenophobic piece without a good old fashioned dose of victim-blaming. No, a victim is not always a brave or noble person (it would depend on the individual), and it’s true that victimhood is not a badge of honor in itself. At the same time, it is neither a sign of weakness nor a fair cause for derision. Many people who have been victimized have chosen to turn their experiences into triumphs by learning from them and using their unique insight to help others avoid their own plights.
           Besides, what kind of alternate universe does he live in? Is there really a parallel world in which the modern GOP is overly sympathetic to marginalized victims? Or another planet in which Republican media frequently invokes the rhetoric of MLK? No Child Left Behind was in no way a sentimental initiative. Sure, it used a double-speak name in a shallow attempt to sound more humane, but it focused on punishing schools for their underperforming students. It assessed a student’s entire aptitude by their grade on a standardized test.
          As far as the comparison of Obama to Michelle Bachman, I have no words. Just an incredulous blink.

“Modern “civilized” males don’t get in fistfights. They don’t play violent sports. They play video games and, at best, watch TV sports. Modern males are physical and emotional weaklings. The ideal male isn’t John Wayne or James Bond or Jimmy Stewart anymore. It’s some crying tit that goes to a therapist, a sort of agreeable lesbian with a dick who calls the police (whom he hates in theory) when there is trouble. The ideal modern male is the British shrimp who handed his pants over to the looter in south London.”

1.) A great many civilized males and females play violent sports. What makes them civilized is the fact that they don’t allow that violence to leak into other areas of their lives.
2.) I understand using examples of John Wayne or James Bond, but when was Jimmy Stewart ever regarded as a masculine ideal? He was admired, but never seen as especially macho. Additionally, James Bond is highly educated and cultured—two qualities that Locklin often thumbs his nose at.
3.) This can be paraphrased as “real men don’t cry or go to therapists.” I just rolled by eyes so far that I’m surprised they didn’t lock into place.
4.) Aside from the glaring sexism and homophobia inherent in using “lesbian” as an insult for men, it’s not even consistent with his other thoughts. He hates men who he sees as “effete” and “wimpy” (his definition of feminine). In the beginning of this article he took a swipe at Andrea Dworkin for her feminist outlook, but her perspective was far from pacifistic. She was frequently criticized for being forceful and endorsing violence toward male supremacists. She doesn’t represent the face of feminism at all; there’s great variation within the movement. However, the author seems to use her as an example of the quintessential feminist. He only criticizes aggression when women use it. This tells me that it's not really passivity he objects to; it's people who don't conform to gender stereotypes.
5.) He is in no position to express contempt for those who would call the police instead of taking vigilante action. Unless he’s prepared to take down a burglar with his own brass knuckles (or tin knuckles, more likely), it’s just plain ridiculous for him to judge. Anyway, police are trained to maintain order and use violence if necessary, so you’d think he would appreciate their societal role.

“How did we get here? Estrogens in the food supply? Cultural Marxism’s corrosive influence? Small families? Some of the greatest badasses I’ve known had many brothers to fight with growing up. When good men who will fight are all extinct, there is no more civilization. No lantern-jawed viragos are going to save you from the barbarian hordes. No mincing Nancy boys with Harvard diplomas will stand up for the common decencies: They’re a social construct, dontcha know. The conservative movement won’t save you: They’re chicken-hearted careerists petrified of offending a victim group.”

           Sounds like someone’s a subscriber to WorldNetDaily.
           Plenty of scrappy adults grew up without brothers to fight with, and plenty of pacifists have siblings.
          Why does he have a problem with barbarian hordes? They’re far from the “mincing Nancy boys” he disdains. It sounds more like he wishes he were a member of a barbarian horde instead of a metropolitan office worker.
          His anti-intellectualism makes little sense, since he seems to be desperately grasping for the tone of a Harvard graduate. He believes that “common decencies” are not a social construct, but blindly insists that bullying, sexism, rigid gender roles, homophobia, and overcompensating machismo are healthy and innate aspects of our nature. Doesn't common decency require us to not hold those attitudes?
         And once again, he asserts that American conservatism somehow panders to victim groups. I don’t know which bodily orifice he pulled that concept from, but it certainly was not from his head.

“Teddy Roosevelt, my ideal President, kept a lion and a bear as pets in the White House and took his daily exercise doing jiu-jitsu and boxing. He even lost vision in an eye in a friendly boxing match while he was president. Our last three glorious leaders are men who kept fluffy dogs and went jogging. I don’t trust squirrelly girly-men in any context. When confronted with difficult decisions, they don’t do what’s right or tell the truth—they’ll do what’s easy or politically expedient. Unlike the last three, Teddy Roosevelt never sent men to die in pointless wars, though he was more than happy to go himself or risk his neck wrestling with bears.”

         So he believes that an ideal president treats himself as expendable by choosing to go out and wrestle with bears while the country is in his hands?
        And “real” men don’t own fluffy pets? I wonder if he’s aware that his favorite president had guinea pigs.

“I’m no great shakes: I’m a shrimpy egghead in a suit who thinks about math all day. I don’t train for fighting anymore, and my experiences with violence are fairly limited. Nonetheless, I judge people on these sorts of things. When I first meet a man, I don’t care what kind of sheepskins or awards he has on his walls. I don’t care if he is liberal or conservative. I want to know if they have my back in a fight. That’s really the only thing that matters.”

        He recognizes this about himself, yet believes he’s still in a position to judge. Not only that, but he claims not to judge people by their political views while assuming that a liberal would be unwilling or unable to defend another person in a fight.
       Then again, what do I know about logic or consistency? I’m just an “effete urban twit,” and worst of all, female. I should just spend my days picking flowers and baking cupcakes for a bored internet-surfing financier who wishes he were a Skyrim character. He’s the real expert on what life is all about.


Once Upon a Recession

A poem I wrote in December of '11.
  
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Once Upon a Recession

There was an old lady who lived in a shoe
Slung over a telephone wire
With all her expenses and bills overdue,
She could not afford to retire.

Her dear friend Peter Pumpkineater
Had a wife and couldn't feed her.
Residing in a pumpkin shell,
They knew their home would never sell.

Old Mother Hubbard lived down the street
Disabled, she dwelled all alone
Her kitchen cupboard held nothing to eat
And no one would throw her a bone.

In this mass Plutocracy
They had such meager means
Because the aristocracy
Spent gold on magic beans.

The king did teeter dangerously
Atop a great stone wall
He'd built a castle in the sky
So it was doomed to fall.

All the king's horses and all the king's men
Could not put the economy together again
But Peter, Peter Pumpkineater
The lady in the shoe
And Old Mother Hubbard
Knew exactly what to do.

Apart, they each were small enough
To live in boots or shells
But then they all united
And stormed the citadels.

They occupied the castles
They occupied the gates
The guards all tried to stop them
But it was far too late.

Millions had joined them
Reaching fever pitch
Demanding fairer wages
And taxes for the rich.

It was no easy trial
They had to persevere
The process took a while
They did not yield to fear.

After strife and labor
They won their due reward
Each man and his neighbor
Had lives they could afford.

Peter and his lovely wife
Moved from their pumpkin shell
To an urban condo
Where they fared quite well.

The little old lady who lived in a shoe
Finally retired.
And Old Mother Hubbard filled up her cupboard
With all the food she desired.

So if you think you're much too small
To have your rights upheld
Remember those who changed the world
Stood up
And rebelled.

The Occupy Movement: Disentangling Fact from Fiction

Uploading some old essays today. I wrote this one in late 2011, at the peak of the Occupy movement.

*****

             When Occupy Wall Street first broke out in the news, I was skeptical. An online article had described the protesters as a gathering of college-age coeds who publicly smoked weed. It also reported that various woman showed up topless and held signs saying, “I can’t afford a shirt.” Initially, I thought it sounded like a group of bored, immature kids trying to gain personal attention via shock value. Like many others, I assumed it would all blow over as soon as the media spotted another shiny distraction.
            This changed when several New York police officers assailed nonviolent protesters with pepper spray. A hundred cops joined the protesters’ ranks to show their objection to the incident. I believe this was when the movement really gained momentum. Otherwise apolitical Americans were shocked to see police officers use unprovoked force. We looked on in horror as a thirteen-year-old girl was arrested for demonstrating peacefully, and Wall Street executives sipped champagne while watching the events from above.
            By this point, the Occupy movement had spread to New Haven. Mike and I decided to check it out, and then attended regularly for about three weeks. We haven’t been there recently because we began to doubt its effectiveness, but we continue to support it. I learned they’ve been a lot more proactive, and plan to return soon.
            Throughout my involvement with Occupy, I’ve seen quite a bit of misinformation circulated by those in opposition to it. I think it’s generated a lot of controversy due to false rumors and misunderstandings, so I’d like to set the record straight. I can by no means claim to speak for the entire group, but I’ll share my impressions on these topics.
            So far, these are the most common complaints about the protests: “It’s disorganized and they don’t know what they want.” “It’s a radical liberal and/or socialist movement.” “It’s comprised of lazy, unemployed people who want handouts.” “The protesters are anti-American.” For the following reasons, none of these claims are accurate.
            For the most part, the Occupy events are actually quite well-organized. We plan meetings by posting them on Occupy New Haven’s Facebook wall. We contact one another by phone and email. The group is segmented into a handful of subcommittees, but they are cohesive and in frequent communication. They include Media (people who have media connections or are especially adept at speaking to the media), Direct Action (those who plan events), Outreach (members who educate others about our movement and try to recruit more people), Food (people who cook for the gathering and offer free food for anyone), Comfort (those who provide clothing, toiletries, and other necessities to the people who camp on the New Haven green), and Medical (members who offer medical attention to anyone in need). I’m probably forgetting some committees, but these are the ones which come immediately to mind. We have regular marches and general assembly meetings. We vote on our decisions and base them on consensus. There is no official leader, but it’s preferable this way. As one man said, “If one person was the face of the movement, it would be too easy for his head to be cut off. With this many heads, it’s unstoppable.”
            The belief that we have no idea what we want could not be more fallacious. We are a diverse crowd with equally diverse concerns, but there are a number of issues we can agree are central to our movement. The stock market, healthcare, house foreclosures, banks, and unemployment are at the forefront.
            Supporters of the Occupation are critical of the New York stock exchange because of its negative impact on the economy. When a company is publicly traded, the corporation makes cuts that are detrimental to the working class. Employees’ wages are lowered, and it’s not unusual for them to lay off a thousand workers so the stock will rise by a single point.
            Protesters at Occupy also frequently address health care reform, because health insurance has become unaffordable for so many Americans. Over half the people who file for bankruptcy have gone bankrupt because they couldn’t afford their medical bills. Most of them worked before they were ill, had to stop working on account of their maladies, and then lost their health insurance along with their jobs. Citizens live an average of ten years longer in countries where health care is less expensive or altogether free. In America, the CEO of a pharmaceutical company can literally own twenty Porsches while others are denied basic coverage or are underinsured.
            For-profit banks are another subject of concern among Occupy members, and some of us have transferred our money to federal credit unions instead. We’re disgusted with the fact that banks received government bailouts but still refuse to give out loans. We’re appalled that Bank of America had planned to impose a five dollar fee on debit cardholders, and that it foreclosed a man’s home after it was destroyed by Hurricane Irene. (Bank of America canceled their plans on the cardholder fee, but only after a major outcry from the politicians as well as the public.)
            In short, Occupy is fed up with our economic meltdown. We want less foreclosures and more available jobs. A number of us want manufacturing work to be outsourced less, since this has deeply dented our economy as well.
            In addition to the claim that we’re disorganized and ideologically fractured, I would like to answer the rumor that we’re mainly comprised of socialists. As I’ve mentioned, we are a diverse crowd. We welcome people of every race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. I’ve heard Occupiers express the desire to include Republicans and facilitate dialogue with the Tea Party. Some are antagonistic toward conservatives, but certainly not all of us are.
           Specific issues within our cause do relate to socialism, such as the endorsement of free healthcare and education. However, not everyone in the movement advocates for those things. Some simply wish that those services were more affordable. We don’t hate the rich, but we despise the tremendous divide between the wealthy and poor. We believe that homeless people shouldn’t have to die of exposure, and that a basic standard of living needs to be available to everyone. Many critics are conditioned to believe that the middle class would have to pay for this to be remedied, but this is not true. The funds would only be skimmed off the income of the wealthiest one percent. The one percent does not consist of people who earn at least $100,000 a year. It’s composed of the tiny fragment that earns millions of dollars annually. Currently, millionaires pay significantly lower taxes in proportion to their income. A slight tax hike for the richest Americans would not rob them of their affluence. It would simply require them to contribute according to their ability. Some say that “the world doesn’t owe you anything,” but that seems to be another way to say “I don’t owe you anything.” If those who are in a position to offer assistance do nothing to help, we will devolve into either anarchy or totalitarianism.
           This brings me to another common complaint about Occupy: that we refuse to work and are demanding handouts. I’ve heard a great deal of anti-Occupy statements along the lines of, “Stop sitting on your lazy asses and get jobs.” First of all, there is no one in this movement who I would describe as lazy. It takes a whole lot of time and effort to organize these events. Secondly, the idea that we should all just “get jobs” rests on several false assumptions. It presumes that everyone involved in the Occupy movement is unemployed, which is not so. It also jumps to the conclusion that anyone who’s unemployed has not tried to find work, and that everyone is equally capable of finding and keeping a job. This is a clear example of victim-blaming. Granted, there are some attitudes that can contribute to one’s own poverty. Some people really are lazy. Some expect instant gratification. Others spend impulsively, take no responsibility for their choices, or give up as soon as anything becomes difficult. However, there are plenty of impoverished people who don’t have those attitudes, and one’s poverty is not inevitably due to their behavior. Conversely, plenty of wealthy people display irresponsible and entitled attitudes because they can afford to. Not all rich people have earned their wealth by grit and good work ethic, and no one has become affluent without help. Those who started lucrative businesses have received loans and relied on construction workers, security, and countless other people to ensure their success.
            In the US, “self-made” billionaires are idolized, and wealth and fame are the ultimate goals to pursue. We’re fed rags-to-riches stories from the time we’re old enough to read. This may feel inspirational at first, but there’s an insidious undertone: these tales dangle a next-to-impossible ideal before our eyes and make us feel inadequate. They teach that our economy doesn’t need to change; that it can benefit us if we ally ourselves with corporate culture. These stories also encourage us to blame others for being poor, because they infer that anyone can amass a colossal fortune with the aid of a positive outlook and a little elbow grease.
            Not only are very few fortunes entirely earned, but not everyone is capable of earning an income. Those who are unable to work wish more than anything to be employable. They don’t relish the idea of taking “handouts.” It’s very difficult to get disability, and people often must apply multiple times before their claim is accepted. They may wait for years beforehand, and are treated as if they choose not to work. This is incredibly demoralizing. Disability money may only amount to $600 a month, and the recipient is required to account for every cent. Rent alone usually costs more than $600 per month. Those who are not disabled but earn minimum wage often cannot manage without government assistance. Most people who collect food stamps have to juggle minimum wage jobs to cover their most basic expenses. This especially applies if they have children. People don't collect welfare out of idleness, and they're not living in luxury off of government funds. They can't afford luxury. In the vast majority of cases, they work harder and endure far more stress than middle-class Americans.
            For the aforementioned reasons, many within the Occupy movement propose an increased minimum wage. This would decrease the need for welfare assistance. With additional free healthcare, medical bills would plummet. If regular checkups were more accessible, no one would be forced to wait for a dire illness before seeking medical treatment.
           These are the issues we stand for. Some may call us anti-American, but the Constitution promises us the right to assembly. By engaging in this sacred right, we’re furthering our democracy. For a great many of us, these protests are born of a love for our country. We care enough about our fellow citizens to pursue this vision. We want to polish this nation until it gleams like the beacon that we know it can become.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Oil and water

This is an old essay of mine, but I think it's still relevant.

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I've been considering how there are two types of people who often struggle in romantic relationships. This isn't meant to be a generalization--just about all of us have struggled in our love lives, and there are far more than two "types" of people who are plagued with romantic problems. But I'd like to discuss a phenomenon I've come to recognize. It's a pattern which seems to effect two specific groups of people. The pattern follows them from one relationship to another, much like an STD (though luckily, it's not contagious).
The two kinds of people I'm describing are as follows: those with weak personalities, and those with personalities that are very intense and dynamic. When a person with a bland personality finds a vivacious partner, it's a toxic combination. This is why.
A dull person has very few opinions or interests. Every idea they express is borrowed from someone else. It's an adopted brainchild, rather than a biological one. Some argue that there's no such thing as a truly original belief, because all of our views are influenced by others. While this is true to a certain extent, I think that originality does exist. I've heard plenty of people express unique ideas. However, I'm talking more about consistent beliefs. When someone has a weak personality, they have no core beliefs or passions that are central to their identity. They take on the hobbies, beliefs, and interests of whoever they are currently dating. They become their significant others' shadow. (When I say shadow, I don't mean that they follow their partner around. I mean they take on the basic blurry form of their partner, but are not an exact replica. A shadow partner can't become an exact replica of you because that would require them to genuinely believe what you believe and to genuinely care about the things that are important to you, rather than feigning it. Also, I call this type of person a shadow because they cannot exist independently of you. They exist independently, but their personality does not. When the relationship ends, they shed their identity like yesterday's clothes, and change into a new persona that will match their next romantic partner's.) This is a parasitic kind of person. They may not mean to be that way, but they are.
Relationships with shadow people may seem like a dream come true in the beginning. The first few months may be filled with moments where you say, "Wow, we must be soul mates! We both have liberal arts degrees, vintage cars, and a deeply seated commitment phobia! It's amazing!" A person with a strong personality can't last for very long with a partner without one, though. If you have your own hobbies and interests and beliefs, you want to be with someone who does as well. Any conversation gets boring if it becomes a one-sided diatribe and the only response you're hearing is, "Me too!" And bland people can't adapt to meet their partner's needs, because it requires mental gymnastics and their brains just aren't that flexible.
People with strong, larger-than-life personalities also tend to struggle in relationships. This is because it can be hard for others to keep up with them. It's easy to feel eclipsed by someone who's so passionate and energetic if you're more low-key. It's an obvious truth that we often forget: We can only be happy when paired with someone on a similar emotional and intellectual wavelength.
I've also noticed that about 99 percent of the time, relationships fail if one person is emotionally unstable while the other is not. It sounds obvious, but many overlook this when getting to know each other. I've been the more stable person in a relationship. I've also been the less stable one. It didn't work out either time because nobody likes to feel wholly responsible for another person's well-being, unless he or she a control freak who thrives on that sense of power. The idea of "rescuing" someone may seem appealing to some, but it rarely works--and the desire to rescue can also be a desire for control, even if only control of one's own role in the dynamic.
So, anyway, those are just some thoughts that have been floating through my head. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this, too.